English muffin
A split and toasted English muffin
Alternative namesBreakfast muffin
Place of originEngland[1]
Main ingredientsWheat flour, butter, milk, sugar, salt, egg, yeast

An English muffin is a small, round and flat yeast-leavened sourdough bread which is commonly sliced horizontally, toasted, and buttered.[2] It is often part of breakfast in North America, Australia and New Zealand, frequently eaten with sweet or savory toppings such as fruit jam or honey, or eggs, sausage, bacon, or cheese. English muffins are an essential ingredient in Eggs Benedict and a variety of breakfast sandwiches derived from it, such as the McMuffin.

In North America and North American-influenced territories, they are called English muffins to distinguish them from plain muffins, which are larger and sweeter miniature quick breads. English muffins are available in a wide range of varieties, including whole wheat, multigrain, cinnamon raisin, cranberry, and apple cinnamon.

English muffins are very similar to bolo do caco in Portuguese cuisine.


The word muffin is thought to come from the Low German muffen, meaning "little cakes".[3] Recipes for muffins appear in British cookbooks as early as 1758. Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery contains a recipe for muffins. The muffins are described as being "like a Honey-comb" inside.[4] This is similar to the "nooks and crannies" later advertised as a signature of Thomas' English muffins. Into the early nineteenth century muffins were sold door to door in England by hawkers as a snack bread before most homes had their own ovens. The traditional English nursery rhyme "The Muffin Man", which dates from 1820 at the latest, traces to that custom.[5]

By country

United States

References to English muffins appear in U.S. newspapers starting in 1859,[6][7][8] and detailed descriptions of them and recipes were published as early as 1870.[9][10]

The "Muffin House" in Manhattan, home of Samuel Bath Thomas' first bakery
The "Muffin House" in Manhattan, home of Samuel Bath Thomas' first bakery

Samuel Bath Thomas emigrated from Plymouth, England, to New York City in 1875.[11] By 1880, he had opened his own bakery at 163 Ninth Avenue. Using his mother's recipe, he began making 'English' muffins there in 1880, selling them to hotels and grocery stores. They were soft and spongy before baking, like traditional muffins, pierced to be "fork-split" prior to toasting, giving a rougher surface than would be obtained by slicing.[12] They became popular as an alternative to toast; Thomas opened a second bakery around the corner from the first at 337 West 20th Street in a building that remains known as "The Muffin House".[13] The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the origin of the term English Muffin to 1902. In a 1926 trademark filing for a bakery brand by Thomas', it was claimed the term was first used in 1894.

Today the company is owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA, which also owns the Entenmann's, Boboli, Stroehmann, Oroweat, and Arnold brands.[14]

Foster's sourdough English muffins were a popular brand of English muffin originally from San Francisco. They were a signature menu item at Foster's restaurants from the 1940s to the 1970s, and continued to be produced as a packaged brand until 2008.

United Kingdom

Wholemeal English muffins from Tesco in England
Wholemeal English muffins from Tesco in England

English muffins are referred to simply as muffins in Britain. The U.S.-style muffins (a sweet quickbread) are sometimes referred to as American muffins, American-style muffins,[15] or sweet muffins but usually only for clarity or branding purposes. In general, the word muffin is almost always used for both, usually without confusion or misunderstanding.[16]


English muffins, known as Toastbrötchen (toast bun) are available in most major supermarkets across Germany.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy". Intenet Archive. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  2. ^ David, Elizabeth (1977). English Bread and Yeast Cookery. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0713910267. Contains a discussion on the origins and use of the English muffin.
  3. ^ "muffin". Retrieved 29 December 2016 – via The Free Dictionary.
  4. ^ Glasse, Hannah (1758). The Art of Cookery. London: A. Millar and T. Tyre. pp. 298–299.
  5. ^ "London Sound Survey". Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Thomas' Dining Saloon". The Buffalo Daily Republic. 22 September 1859. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ "Wanted: An English Muffin and Crumpet Baker". New York Daily Herald. 17 September 1862. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  8. ^ "Call at Steam Bakery". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 30 May 1863. p. 5. Retrieved 25 February 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ "Fancy Bread". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 4 November 1870. p. 1. Retrieved 25 February 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  10. ^ "English Muffins". The Weekly Star. 29 March 1876. p. 6. Retrieved 25 February 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  11. ^ Olver, Lynne. "The Food Timeline--history notes: muffins to yogurt". The Food Timeline. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Wolferman's: A Different Style of English Muffin".
  13. ^ Muffin House -Daytonian
  14. ^ "Bimbo Bakeries - Our Brands".
  15. ^ American muffins at cakebaker.co.uk; retrieved 27 January 2019
  16. ^ "Cambridge Dictionary: Definition of 'muffin'".
  17. ^ "Die Deutschen und der Muffin" (in German).